For a governor who once put his phone call with President Uhuru Kenyatta on speaker in public to demonstrate his powerful connections, the impeachment of Mr Mike Sonko on Thursday marked a dramatic fall from power.
And if the Senate upholds his impeachment by the Nairobi County Assembly, it will occasion a fresh election in the capital for a governor and deputy governor, and seal the fate of the flamboyant county boss who ruled City Hall with theatrics, bravado and a display of opulence, including golden chains.
Constant fights with Badi
In the end, Mr Sonko’s constant fights with President Kenyatta’s appointee, Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) boss Major General Mohammed Badi, hastened his departure, and barring any surprises at the Senate, he looks set to join ex-Kiambu governor Ferdinard Waititu on the streets.
Mr Waititu was also impeached. Both Mr Sonko and Mr Waititu have pending corruption charges which will keep them busy outside the corridors of power. And they share much more; yesterday, Mr Sonko attempted a trick Mr Waititu tried to save himself but which backfired spectacularly.
Mr Sonko had spirited dozens of MCAs to hideouts in Mombasa in a desperate attempt to scuttle the impeachment motion, but 88 MCAs voted to impeach him, two more than the requisite two-thirds threshold.
Mr Sonko, who rapidly rose up the political ladder, making his debut in Parliament during a by-election in Makadara constituency and going on to win the Nairobi Senate seat and the governor’s race in his first attempt in 2017, had once been a darling of President Kenyatta for his crowd pulling antics that thrilled during Jubilee campaign rallies.
But he had started being relegated from State functions where he used to enjoy the front seat. From being given a wide berth during important occasions in the county as well as those involving his fellow governors, the once “first-among-equals” governor – who was always just an ear-shot away from the President – was left isolated. And when a notice of impeachment motion was tabled last week by Minority Leader Michael Ogada, the inevitable was nigh. Attempts to reach out to the President and ODM party leader Raila Odinga for rescue fell on deaf ears.
He turned to the courts to try to stop the impeachment in vain. In February, he survived after pulling the court card on MCAs who were baying for his exit. With the odds stuck against him and staring at an ignominious exit from City Hall, the former Makadara MP resorted to what he know best by dipping into his “deep pockets” to once again try and scuttle the bid to remove him from office.
But this time he was up against a formidable force. Yesterday, Speaker Benson Mutura announced 88 MCAs voted in support of the motion and two against. With the confirmation, 58 MCAs who were present broke out in dance singing “yote yawezekana bila Sonko”. The governor failed to appear virtually to defend himself against accusations including gross violation of the Constitution and other laws, abuse of office, and lacking the mental capability to run the county.
Mr Ogada rallied the county legislators to exercise their powers : “This House has no other option but to exercise the power of impeachment. The plane has landed and it is now our time to stand and be counted by not allowing the county government to go to the dogs,” said Mr Ogada.
Seconding the motion, Majority Leader Abdi Guyo said the impeachment bid was necessary to restore normal operations at the county government.
“We are happy that some MCAs already escorted Sonko back to where he came from. We are tired of him as we need development and not theatrics,” said Majority Whip Paul Kados.
Minority Whip Peter Imwatok said: “We cannot leave a county government of more than four million people to go to the dogs. We must rescue it. The governor has no choice but to remain in Kwale where he currently is.”
“For the past three years, we have tried to work with the governor but that has not been possible. We have instead been treated to charade,” said Ngara MCA and former acting Speaker Chege Mwaura.
With his fate now lying with the Senate, Speaker Mutura will within two days inform the Speaker of the Senate of the assembly’s resolution. But the protests by the governor’s camp yesterday suggesting foul play points to a court battle.
At least 21 MCAs allied to the governor alleged that someone had logged-in into their e-mail accounts without their knowledge.
Majority Leader Anthony Karanja condemned the manner in which the proceedings were conducted. If the resolution is upheld by the Senate, and with no deputy governor, Speaker Mutura will act as governor for 60 days before a by-election is called.